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Notre Dame Football

Captain Notes with Khalid Kareem | Blocking Out Noise, Practice Vibes, Pregame Speeches

September 22, 2023

It’s been quite a week around Notre Dame and Ohio State as the two programs will meet in a top 10 primetime showdown on Saturday night. 

The implications of the game for Notre Dame are significant as Marcus Freeman faces his alma mater for the second time and looks to get the Irish over the hump, while Ryan Day needs a win as Buckeye nation is now on edge as it relates to his success in big games. 

All those fun narratives have been driven home all week by the national and local media in Columbus and South Bend. And they’ll continue on Friday with the Pat McAfee Show in South Bend and then again on Saturday morning as College Game Day will be live from Notre Dame. 

How does a team block out the noise all week? It can be challenging for some and simple for others, but these games are exactly why each player chooses Notre Dame or Ohio State. 

“Blocking out the noise is easy all the way until the day of the game,” stated former Notre Dame captain Khalid Kareem. “That’s one of the most exciting parts about playing college football. Playing in front of thousands of fans, whether that’s at home or on the road. You feed off that energy for sure.” 

The current Chicago Bears defensive end points to Notre Dame’s road trip to USC in 2018 as a game where there was a ton of noise and build-up all week due to the Irish bringing a perfect 11-0 record into the game. 

“When we went to play USC in 2018, I looked up and was like, there’s so much on the line here and what better stage than here in the Coliseum with everyone rooting against us,” said Kareem. “The best feeling is leaving an opposing stadium quiet after a win. Silencing all of the fans and seeing the couple hundred ND supporters screaming their heads off is an unmatched feeling.” 

Kareem played in several big games during his time at Notre Dame. Some went well and some didn’t. In 2018, Michigan and College Game Day came to South Bend and Notre Dame handled business from start to finish, which was a step in the right direction after the 2017 Miami game. But the following year, Michigan dominated the Irish in the Big House. 

Yet, in both games, Kareem didn’t feel a different vibe from the week of practice leading up to the game to give a feeling of confidence or even an uneasy feeling in 2019.

“I don’t think there was anything too different as far as vibes when preparing for those big games,” explained Kareem. “We understood the implications that came with them. But far as a defensive mindset, just another nameless, faceless opponent that’s standing in the way of us achieving our goal of winning a national championship.” 

Fans from all fanbases love it when programs drop part of pregame speeches from players or coaches. Remember Mike Elko’s speech at Miami? There are countless speeches on YouTube or Social Media that fans from all teams love to watch regardless of allegiances, but does it matter to those in the locker room? 

“The speeches hit a little closer to home when it comes from a player because you know and you can feel that that man is about to give his all for his brothers,” said Kareem. “There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s almost willing to die out there to get the job done.”

And yes, Kareem remembers one distinct speech Alohi Gilman gave the Irish. 

“I can’t remember the exact game, but Alohi gave one of the best pre-game speeches I’ve ever heard,” Kareem said. “I think it was 2018 against Navy. After hearing how personal it was to him, we couldn’t let him down. There was no way we were going to let our brother down. He needed to get his ‘lick’ back and we played with the same passion and burning energy that he had from the moment we stepped out of the locker room.

“He set the tone/tempo of that game. When you hear a speech like that, there’s literally no way you can go out there and lay a goose egg. You have to show up and perform.”  

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